Saturday, October 4, 2014

5th Annual FREEDOM WALK [PHOTOS]

Last weekend, 600 passionate women and men gathered in the lobby of Fairbank Hotel in downtown Toronto.  In the crowd, we saw compassionate students, families with children, dedicated officers, lawyers, and members of parliament.  Of that group, approximately 200 people (including myself!) later marched the streets of Toronto.

Before spotting my friend, I showed up alone feeling nervous, since this was the first Freedom Walk I had attended. Free Them really outdid themselves though, as Ottawa also had a walk that was being run simultaneously.  Really proud to hear about that! [VIDEO COMING SOON! CHECK BACK]

It was really cool and inviting to have a red carpet style banner set up, so all attendees felt good about showing up.
Most people pre-registered, so I quickly moved through the line to sign in, and get a drawstring backpack full of trafficking information.
Goodie bag with bracelet, info, posters to put up.
"I Love Freedom" bag

First was the opening ceremony, with amazing guest speakers of all different backgrounds.  I felt almost bad being able to sit in a beautifully decorated room.  We were provided free coffee, tea, drinks, food, and every roundtable was equipped with a beautiful symbolic purple flower.
The beautiful Fairmont Hotel. Attendees of all ages were present.
The Canadian queen of R&B Jully Black was the hostess of the day, delivering with both compassion and of course, humour.  (We definitely heard a few booty jokes in there!).  Speakers included survivor Timea (Timea's Cause), founder of Free-Them Shae Invidiata, MP Joy Smoth, John Cotton (well known attorney), RCMP officer Lepa Jankovic,  However the speech which touched me the most was the humble and dedicated Anuradha Koirala (CNN hero of the year), who worked day in and out to rescue thousands of trafficked children in Asia.

Shae and Timia sharing the podium.
I had the pleasure of connecting with Timia after the event.  She is at the forefront of training services on how to be aware of trafficked victims, and recently released her own memoir of surviving sex slavery.  Please check her out HERE.


Recognition of the officers who help bring justice to victims.

An extraordinary moment when Jully Black belted out an emotional rendition of "Amazing Grace" with Timea.  Not a single dry eye in the room.

John Cotton delivering his important message about the justice system.


Freedom ambassador, past hostess, and OMNI host Veronic Chail.

Regrettably, I don't have a photo of Anuradha as I was too busy taking a video.  The vid will be up soon, once I find some time to edit.
Another key point about the event, was the opportunity for freedom-related vendors to sell and promote their products.

The official T-shirt of the 5th annual walk (I got one too).

Handcrafted freedom bracelets (I bought a pink one).  All donations went directly back to Free Them,

A cool local chocolate company I learned about, who is BETTER than fair-trade. They are DIRECT trade, in the sense that they buy beans directly from farmers in South Mexico.  All products are then processed here in Canada.


This year's event was delayed, and so we did not begin walking until later in the afternoon.  All attendees were given free purple balloons (the kind that you can bang together to produce a sound).

Everyone gathers downstairs, near Union station.
Snapping a picture with RCMP officer Lepa!  This woman is really the definition of bravery, whether it be from busting a trafficking ring or escaping threats to her own life, she is truly inspiring.



Peaceful and informative signs.

The children initiate the symbolic release of white doves- representing freedom of the innocent.
Found Shae resonates her message: "CHILDREN ARE NOT FOR SALE".

Had time to stop for a picture with Miss Western Ontario, and Miss Toronto.
We cheered and marched until our voices ran dry.  As this was a 4km walk, it took a few hours, with each kilometre milestone featuring volunteers who provided granola bars and water.  Looking back, this was very well organized.

Close up of the freedom bracelet- Each bead represents freedom.
My t-shirt.
Thanks FREE THEM for organizing an informative and important event, I hope you were able to raise all the money and awareness you had hoped for.  It was humbling to meet others who care about the cause and hear leading speakers remind me of why we are in this.  It's easy to become absorbed into everyday life, so I'm realizing the importance of coming out to events like this.

Coming out soon, will be an interview with Timea about her new published memoir!

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